skywater art

Lava In His Blood

My dad and I were very close.  We shared the love of nature, of beauty, of building things.  He didn’t always have quite enough patience for his young artistic daughter, wanting to stop and pick up every pretty rock or stick or leaf.  But for the most part he indulged me quite freely.  Even as an adult while on a family road trip to Glacier National Park he was quite willing to pull off to the side of road so I could run back and pick the pretty weeds I spotted.  We road home with the back window ledge filled with sage brush and dried pods.

I really loved my dad.  We had a special bond.  So in 1994 when he was diagnosed with cancer it hit me very hard.  I remember dropping to the floor and sobbing when I first found out.  I had been part of an oil painting group.  Every Saturday morning we’d meet at a given location and paint together.  Always, always, as soon as I got home I meticulously cleaned my pallet and brushes. But the next painting session after learning of dad’s cancer I came home, set everything down in my studio, and didn’t touch it for a year.

His treatment was successful, and dad was cancer free!  I began painting again.  We collected rocks together and I polished them in my rock tumbler.  He helped my husband and I remodel our house.  We took him and my mom on a trip to Alaska.  Life was good. That is, until 15 years later.  Some viscous latent cell was just waiting in his body.  So now, the prostate cancer was back, and had metastasized to his bones.

Thus began 6 years of one treatment after another.  Shots, pills, acupuncture, chemo, more pills, more chemo, radiation therapy, more chemo, bone scans, lung aspirations, 2 different rounds of nuclear injections.  Doctor appointments to see if he was healthy enough for his treatment, then the treatment, then the appointment to discuss the treatment. At one point after the nuclear Samarium 153 infusion I painted “Lava in His Blood ” – it lists every medicine he was on at the moment, each shown in molecular formula, compound name, and chemical formula.  Some were VERY long!

long chemical name

Here is the complete painting

Lava in His Blood

I loved my dad so much, it hurt terribly to see him wither away, to be eaten alive by cancer.  The muscle loss, weakness, neuropathy, pain, nausea, lack of appetite, lack of mobility, then bed ridden and having to be diapered and cleaned up by home health aides.  I hate hate hate cancer!!!!!

I was one of the primary people to take him to his doctor appointments and various treatments.  It was an honor to serve him.  It was nearly unbearably exhausting.  Eventually I no longer painted, there was absolutely no emotional or physical energy for such.  But I did develop a simple drawing method that was an emotional lifesaver, it gave me space to disappear into.  I thought of nothing other than what I was seeing on the paper at that moment.  I drew with my non-dominant hand, effectively silencing my internal art judges -there was no right or wrong, no good or bad, I simply let my pen wander.  I lost track of time, forgot suffering and heartache for the moment, and was renewed. Over the last 3 years of dad’s life I drew 194 of these therapeutic pieces.  A selection of them can be viewed in the Gallery, Pattern and Design, The Evolution of My Wanderings.

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